Feature Story

Cisco Networking Academy students bring WiFi to Global Citizen Festival

by Stephanie Chan

Global Citizen Festival

NetAcad Dream Team students get opportunity of a lifetime in New York City.

As the sunlight dipped down in New York City, lights in Central Park's Great Lawn went up to celebrate the Global Citizen Festival, a massive end-of-summer music festival boasting headliners like Janet Jackson, John Legend, Shawn Mendes, and more. This concert comes from non-profit organization Global Citizen to bring together communities for growth—like ending extreme poverty by the year 2030.

Together, Cisco and Global Citizen look to create those special connections—through technology and humans—that make change possible. While Global Citizen's goal is to end extreme poverty by 2030, Cisco is also looking to positively impact 1 billion lives by 2025—and both companies see education as a key pillar in achieving that. The two organizations recently announced a broad partnership based on the belief that young people are leading the way to create positive solutions for the world.

Cisco's SVP and Chief Communications Officer Oliver Roll and Senior Director of Corporate Affairs Mary de Wysocki stepped up on stage during the event to announce the creation of the Global Citizen Prize for Youth Leadership presented by Cisco. This award will recognize youth leaders between the age of 18 and 30 who have made measurable impact towards one of the UN's Global Goals and who inspires others to do the same. This award seeks to recognize ordinary young people doing extraordinary things, and includes a $250,000 USD prize. Submissions are due October 15th. 

The network connectivity ran impeccably throughout the Global Citizen Festival, providing Wi-Fi for excited concert-goers eager to share the experiences with friends. To make sure the wireless access connects seamlessly for an event like this is no small feat—and Cisco has the right talent and technology to get it done. In this case it was under the guidance of TOURtech, an expert event services company who deftly deploys temporary Wi-Fi and internet for major events and festivals.

Networking Academy Dream Team

The team from Cisco gathered in New York City's Central Park to set up the Wi-Fi in areas of the festival and worked behind the scenes as extended members of TOURtech's team. Cisco's Network Operations Center (NOC) works events like this—and even the annual conference Cisco Live—to ensure uninterrupted wireless network connectivity for everyone working, playing, and enjoying the event.

"We're setting up Wi-Fi for VIP areas at the event," said Networking Academy student and Dream Team member Michael Dziak, "We're giving all the attendees in those areas wireless access during the show so that they can send pictures, videos, and use social media."

Since 2011, NOC has worked with several students from Cisco's Networking Academy (NetAcad), the company's program to help students gain life changing IT skills. This year, NOC has invited five students and two instructors to help set up access points and manage the network in areas of the Global Citizen Festival.

Taught by instructors around the world in-person and online, NetAcad students of diverse backgrounds can learn everything from networking to security to Internet of Things so that they can begin or restart an IT career. In the last 20 years, more than 9 million students have been a part of NetAcad. Students who were hand-picked to aid the NOC are called the Dream Team, and this year they got the opportunity of a lifetime to head to New York City and connect Wi-Fi for the Global Citizen Festival.

"Cisco isn't new to providing Wi-Fi at a festival, and at Global Citizen, connectivity is key to taking action," said Alex Rosen, a Global Manager of Entertainment Partnerships at Cisco, "This was a wonderful opportunity to bring together technology with social impact, while also making a better fan experience at this inspiring event."

Opportunity of a lifetime

Opportunity is truly key for the Cisco Networking Academy program. Not only did the Dream Team students receive the chance to work at the Global Citizen Festival, but the hands-on experience and course learnings are irreplaceable avenues for growth.

Dream Team student Dziak spent the last eight years working with home audio visual technologies. He felt that networking was becoming a main factor in his role and that new skills would be necessary for the rapidly changing landscape of the tech industry. Cisco Networking Academy works to bring skills to those just beginning their IT career, but also specializes in reskilling those who have already worked in the field.

"Networking Academy made it easy to transition," said Dziak, "The course load and work-life balance was great, which made it easy to study and take my CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) exam."

Global Citizen's message of creating opportunities and positive change in the world falls in line perfectly with what Cisco Networking Academy looks to do with students and instructors. By providing the tools and education for IT skills, students can change the path of their lives through new academia and career paths.

The necessity of strong wireless access is what makes and NOC and Dream Team's job so crucial for events like the Global Citizen Festival. While concert attendees were able to have an amazing time seeing the celebrities on stage, so too did the Dream Team walk away with an irreplaceable, hands-on experience that will stay with them for the rest of their careers.

"Just passing my CCNA exam has led to interviews based off of my experience and new CCNA title," said Dziak, "Networking Academy has opened up the door of opportunities for my career."